How to Rent a House

Renting a house is similar to renting an apartment, but you'll find a few important differences. Finding the right house requires more legwork and living costs associated with detached homes are often higher. However, you may have more wiggle room to negotiate better lease terms.

Find the Right House

Homeowners rent their property out in two ways: They either screen applicants and manage the property themselves, or they hire a property management company to take care of everything.

Check with local property management companies to view the houses they have for rent. Renting a house from a property management company is similar to renting from a large apartment complex; the company has specific guidelines that renters must meet to qualify and exceptions to those guidelines are rare.

Homeowners who manage their own properties may be more flexible with lease terms and qualifying standards. However, those properties take more research to find because owners don't have large advertising budgets. To locate owner-landlord rental properties:

  • Check local ads, both online and in local newspapers.
  • Drive around neighborhoods where you'd like to live and look for yard signs.
  • Ask friends, family and acquaintances if they know anyone renting a house.
  • Check bulletin boards at community centers, grocery stores and libraries.

Consider Higher Rental Costs

Renting a single-family home is more expensive than an apartment, duplex or condo, though you'll often gain more square footage. Take into account the increased rent, but also consider the following costs that may be higher:

Utilities

In a detached house, all four exterior walls are exposed to the elements. Your heating and cooling bills may be higher as a result. Check with the landlord in advance to clarify which utilities are included and which ones are not. House renters may pay for sewer, water and garbage removal, which is often not a utility apartment dwellers pay.

Insurance Costs

The owner likely has insurance coverage for the house, but you'll still need to get renter's insurance for your personal belongings. Renter's insurance for a single-family dwelling may cost more. Ask your insurance agent for an estimate.

Required Home Maintenance

Apartment dwellers take landscaping for granted -- complex managers do the work, or hire a crew. Before you rent a house, ask the owner how lawn care and snow removal are handled. He may do the work himself, or a property management company may hire a work crew. However, the owner may expect you to do the work yourself, or pay someone to do it for you.

Apply for the Rental House

Renting a house is much like renting any other type of property. The landlord wants to see that you're financially secure and responsible with your money, and that you can afford the rent. Some homeowners aren't as strict about the application; if your credit is less than perfect, you may be able to convince the landlord that you'll pay on time and take good care of the residence. Landlords renting out only one property may not do credit checks.

Negotiate Terms

If you work directly with the owner, you may have more flexibility to negotiate. Owner-landlords want their tenants to take good care of their properties and pay the rent on time. If you can convince a landlord that you're a responsible tenant, you may be able to negotiate terms, such as having a pet on the property.